Forget Sitting: Here’s the New Health Hazard to Avoid
It seems so unfair that something that’s so normal and natural should be so bad for us. Yet sitting too much is full of health hazards. (Warning: Check out this link only if you really want to know the facts; it’s pretty graphic.)
In one of my articles on these health hazards, I wondered whether lying down has the same health risks as sitting. That is, is watching a movie flopped on the couch or reading in bed as bad for one’s health as sitting? Last year, when I wrote that article, there wasn’t much research yet.
Now, some findings are dribbling in, and they’re not what I’d hoped. It turns out that the problem is neither sitting nor standing, but inactivity. As long as we’re not using our largest muscles—the ones in our legs and backsides—we put ourselves at risk. So lying down is just as bad as sitting.
There is one exception: sleeping. Our bodies need several hours every day to carry out various physiological processes. Sleeping has benefits for brain function, physical health, and emotional well-being. That’s intuitively obvious.
Then again, what seems intuitively obvious sometimes isn’t. Research is now emerging that suggests that sleeping later on weekends than on your workdays may be bad for you. How bad is still uncertain, though there may be a negative impact on your cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin resistance, and other such things that are adversely affected by all the fun things in life. This research is still in its infancy, and the findings may not hold up upon closer examination. But for now, it seems there are risks involved with sleeping in, too.
As long as we’re in the depressing news department, note that standing—or at least prolonged standing—also has its own risks. For example, it can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders, which can be damaging to your legs, knees, and lower back (all of which become more sensitive as you age, and that’s even if you do everything right).
For now, the best advice may be what we’ve been hearing all along: guard against inactivity. Stand and move around as much as you can and as often as you can.
One bit of good news: Although it’s often been reported that exercise doesn’t compensate for too much sitting, that may prove to be false. According to one in-depth analysis of relevant research studies, a minimum of thirty minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity may protect against the negative effects of being sedentary—provided you do it at least five days a week.
Up and at ’em!